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DBT Can Help Traumatized, Suicidal Youth Manage Emotions

DBT trauma 320Children who are suicidal and victims of trauma, especially those with PTSD, pose an especially difficult challenge for psychiatrists. Trauma, suicidality, and self-harm often present together, and they might heighten the risk of treatment.

“It becomes a dilemma to know in what order to treat those symptoms, because sometimes it feels like one will not get better without treating the other,” said Michele Berk, PhD. “But there’s also some question around when it’s safe to do exposure-based treatments – which are the key ingredient to resolving PTSD symptoms,” Dr. Berk said during a session focused on trauma and suicidality in youth at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is an option. DBT was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, PhD, to treat chronic suicidality comorbid with borderline personality disorder. In addition to PTSD, newer work has shown DBT as efficacious for treating substance use disorders, depression, and eating disorders.

DBT is based on the idea that self-harm occurs, at least in some cases, because the patient is predisposed to experiencing heightened emotional reactions. When the patient is exposed to an invalidating environment, such as when a parent or caregiver tells them to “just get over it; you’re overreacting,” this can lead patients to question their emotions. Most importantly, patients never learn effective strategies to that manage their emotions, according to Dr. Berk, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford (Calif.) University.

DBT remains a subject of continuing research. One avenue would be to more directly integrate exposure therapy with DBT in adolescents, but a protocol has not yet been developed. Prolonged exposure is typically used in adult PTSD patients, but trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy more often is the choice for adolescents.

Whatever the choice, involvement of caring adults would be key. “In adolescents, there’s a need to involve parents and caregivers in whatever the trauma treatment is going to be,” Dr. Berk said.

Excerpted from “DBT Can Help Traumatized, Suicidal Youth Manage Emotions” in MDedge Psychiatry. Read the full article.

Source: Clinical Psychiatry News | DBT can help traumatized, suicidal youth manage emotions, https://www.mdedge.com/psychiatry/article/184299/mixed-topics/dbt-can-help-traumatized-suicidal-youth-manage-emotions | copyright 2018 MDedge Psychiatry

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